BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Manteño ceramic stamp seal has a handle on the back and a raised-relief animal, possibly a deer, with prominent ears and square teeth on the front.WHERE WAS IT MADE?This was made in the coastal region of what is now Ecuador.HOW WAS IT USED?Stamp seals were likely used to apply paint to many different surfaces, including clothing, and were even used for applying body paint. Seals would have been dipped in paint, mud, blood, or some other medium, and then applied to the surface to be decorated by pressing or rolling, depending on their shape. Traces of paint residue may sometimes be found in the crevices of seals.Stamp seals come in a wide variety of designs and shapes; although flattened on the front surface, they generally have nubs or handles in the back that were used to grip the seal while applying decoration. Other types of seals are made in a cylindrical form for rolling a design. To see an example of a cylinder seal in the Johnson Museum’s collection, search for object number 2006.070.326 in the keyword search box.Images from seals are not found on clay items, so the seals must have been used on perishable items such as skin, leather, cloth, houses, and canoes. Much artwork for these pre-Columbian cultures was ephemeral, in the form of song, dance, and body painting. What we see in clay and stone is largely mortuary art. To see other stamp seals in the Johnson Museum’s collection, search for object numbers 86.026.039, 86.026.040, 86.026.041, 86.026.056, 2006.070.117, 2006.070.122, 2006.070.125, and 2006.070.287 in the keyword search box.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Animals such as the puma or jaguar, deer, snake, and caiman were considered sacred, and were sacrificed to the gods as well as featured in artwork. Look at the face of the animal on this stamp—it may represent a deer. Andean deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) are found today primarily at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 meters (over 10,000 feet), occupying a rugged mountainous habitat. They are small, short-legged, with branched antlers. Deer bones have been recovered from numerous archaeological sites and it is likely that the past range of these animals was significantly broader than at present.ABOUT THE MANTEÑO CULTURE:The Manteño culture was centered along the semiarid Ecuadorian coast north of the Bahía de Caráquez. The Manteño were an agricultural people who cultivated maize, manioc (yuca or tapioca), peanuts, tobacco, cotton, potatoes, peppers, avocados, and squash. Local chiefs of high rank living in semi-urban centers governed the people. The Manteño navigated incredible distances to maintain extensive commercial exchange networks with both Mesoamerica to the north and Peru to the south. Manteño pottery is typically burnished blackware, fired in a “reducing” (low-oxygen) atmosphere, with finely incised line decorations. Figures of impressive nude male figures with large nose-rings, often seated on chiefly benches, are hallmarks of Manteño art and may reflect the increasing power wielded by chiefs during the Integration Period (AD 500-1500). Manteño artisans also excelled at metalworking, creating personal adornments such as earrings and nose rings. Animals such as the puma or jaguar, deer, snake, and caiman were considered sacred, and were sacrificed to the gods as well as featured in artwork. The Manteño people (known as the Huancavilcas to the early Spanish) fell under the domination of the Incas near the end of the pre-Columbian period.